7/3/2013 9:27:00 AM,
Philip A. Janquart
OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Google can pay $6 million to settle claims that it jammed cellphones by sending unsolicited messages through its group messaging service, Disco, a federal judge ruled.
The Disco service was a joint project from Google and its subsidiary Slide, but its launch in early 2011 led to several class action lawsuits
from unhappy consumers who alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Slide closed later that year and shut down its various projects, including Disco and Photovine.
Companies could allegedly use Disco to register up to 99 phone numbers in a chat group, leaving consumers with no choice but to "opt out" of receiving a barrage of messages.
Group members who received a message allegedly wound up replying to the whole group as they tried to sort out why they were receiving the messages in the first place.
Consumers said they also received advertisements about Disco from Google once an entity had registered their phone numbers without permission.
Google and Slide settled one such class action filed by Nicole Pimental and Jessica Franklin in the Northern District of California, agreeing to create a $6 million common fund for the benefit of the class.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers granted the deal final approval last week.
The eight-page ruling states that "only a small portion of the settlement class is expected to file claims," and will thus likely obtain the maximum statutory recovery of $500 each.
Since Google and Slide sent about 400,000 spam text messages to more than 185,000 phone numbers, "a $6 million common fund achieves approximately 3% of the maximum possible recovery," Rogers found.
As such, Rogers determined that class counsel did achieve results that are "exceptional" enough to justify an award of attorneys' fees higher than the 25 percent benchmark in common fund cases. That figure works out to $1.5 million.